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Archive for February, 2011

News Brief February 19-22

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
News Brief                                                                                                             February 19, 2011
Two Teenagers Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Student 

Two teenagers, who inhaled adhesives before filming themselves sexually assaulting a female middle school student, were sentenced to three years of imprisonment. The Seoul Appellate Court sentenced the two teenagers, both aged 16, to three years of imprisonment on charges of robbing and sexually molesting a 15-year-old student.  According to prosecutors, the two teens were living together after running away from their homes. Prosecutors stated that the two teens stole a younger student’s cell phone, dragged her to a nearby restroom, stripped her, and forcefully molested her numerous times, while filming the assault with her stolen cell phone.

 

Students Present at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Two 15-year-old Korean students stood in front of 18 civil rights commissioners as presenters in a conference room of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva on Feb. 10. The conference was held to evaluate Korea’s child and adolescent rights. The two students were the first young Koreans to participate in the UN conference. The students started their presentation by saying that children’s rights in Korea aren’t respected enough and that the reason is that adults fail to pay attention to what they say. “Adults tend to think we don’t care, but we have worries and secrets we want to keep,” said one of the students during her UN presentation. The student also voiced a need for adolescent voting rights.

February 20, 2011
 

Protests End in Negotiations

Cleaners, guards and other non-permanent workers at Hongik University reached a tentative agreement with their employers, ending the 49-day labor dispute that started with a sit-in protest at the school campus in Seoul. The two labor supplying companies that fired them decided to rehire them and further negotiated with the school on their behalf, according to the unionized workers. The union of the workers is a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). KCTU said that the workers have agreed with the companies regarding payments and working conditions during a meeting on Sunday morning with 86 workers of the 112 union members.

 

Korean Universities Ill Equip to Handle Foreign Students

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology investigated 29 universities nationwide from December through January and found that all of them had violated more than one of the rules on foreign student management. Ten schools were warned for offenses that include giving credits to students who had not attended class; helping the graduation of foreign students who hadn’t showed up at classes; and not reporting students who violated employment laws to police. Many schools did not monitor student attendance and even awarded diplomas to students who had not qualified for them.

February 21, 2011
 

Seoul Metro under Fire for Lack of Workers’ Safety

Seoul Metro is under attack lack due to their lack of safety standards for subway track workers with the recent death of a worker who was fatally hit by a train. After the accident, Seoul Metro officials said that workers are on their own in keeping from being hit by trains. The loud noise of the approaching train, the officials said, should be enough of a warning. They did say, however, that they are reviewing the situation. “The working conditions for subway track workers are really poor,” a track worker said on condition of anonymity. “There is no safety device, or system, except a safety helmet.”

 

South Korean President Calls for ‘Fair Society’

The President of Korea issued a statement calling for the need for a ‘fair society.’ The President’s office stated that, “the creation of a fair society is an ethical, practical task the Republic of Korea needs to take for its advancement. A fair society is a corruption-free society where the laws and institutions work properly. It is a vibrant society based on a sound market economy where equal opportunity is guaranteed. It is a society that embraces the socially vulnerable with caring concern and supports those who want to get back on their own feet… Building a fair society will be successful only when there is active participation by all sectors of society since it requires a change in our awareness, customs and culture. Among other things, it is crucial for leaders in each sector to take the initiative and set a good example. When leaders lead by example, we will be able to expedite the establishment of a fair society.”

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

News Brief February 15-18, 2011

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
News Brief                                                                                                                              February 15, 2011

Seoul to Offer Language Courses to Children from Multicultural Families

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced plans to offer better language education courses so that such children from multicultural families could better adapt themselves to Korean society more easily and quickly. One-on-one Korean language lessons at home will be available to such children of foreign or multicultural families simply by calling available teachers. According to the new program, 200 foreign or multicultural families with children aged between three and 12 can receive language lessons in the comfort of their own homes by utilizing this program. The government plans to expand the program to 2,500 families by 2013.

Further Demonstrations against the NHRCK

A former investigator for the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), staged a one-person demonstration, holding a signboard in front of the NHRCK building in Seoul, and spoke with colleagues. The investigator, a certified labor attorney, submitted her resignation on February 8, protesting the NHRCK administration’s decision not to renew the contract of irregular researcher Kang In-yeong, who criticized the commission under Chairperson Hyun Byung-chul as vice president of the NHRCK chapter of the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU). The NHRCK union chapter filed a petition to the commission calling the decision “employment discrimination due to labor union activity,” but the NHRCK denied the existence of the labor union, saying the NHRCK has never interacted or negotiated with the union.

February 16, 2011

Scholarship Students Commits Suicide over Expulsion

A female student enrolled in a university under scholarships committed suicide after receiving a notice of expulsion due to poor grades. Police found the body of the 23-year-old student in the bathroom of her home in Dongdaemun-gu, southern Seoul, after her parents who lived in the countryside reported that they could not contact her for days. According to the parents, their daughter told them that she had to study one more semester because she was under academic probation. Police found an expulsion letter at her home. Police are investigating to confirm that depression caused by her poor grades and expulsion led her to take her own life.

United Nations Concerned over Korea’s Diminishing Freedom of Expression

A special envoy from the United Nations has expressed his concern over South Koreans’ diminished right to freedom of opinion and expression, urging the government to fully guarantee the rights of all individuals to express diverse opinions. In the report, which will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011, UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue said human rights have been severely restricted since 2008 when President Lee Myung-bak took office. He said there had been an increasing number of prosecutions to suppress individuals who express views that are not in agreement with the position of the government, based on laws that were often not in conformity with international standards.

February 17, 2011

SNU Professor Denies Abusing Students

A professor at Seoul National University (SNU) has denied allegations that she habitually abused her students over the past 10 years. The denial came several days after SNU announced that it is investigating the professor following complaints from students. The investigation began when a pupil filed a complaint this month to the school authorities, saying that the professor would slap the students, throw key chains and a mirror, throw flowers after a performance because the students didn’t applaud loud enough and forcing them to buy tickets for her concerts. The professor did not deny that she hit her students, but explained that she did not consider the hitting as physical violence or abuse.

Police to Seek Arrest Warrant for Suspected Murderer

Police are investigating the suspicious death of a doctor’s pregnant wife and are looking into the possible destruction of evidence by the doctor, the suspected killer. After a raid on the couple’s house in Seoul, police allowed the husband to return home because they had no legal grounds to retain him from his home. However, police have since been investigating whether or not he has tried to destroy evidence. Police plan to re-seek an arrest warrant for the doctor next week on charges of murder as a local court rejected the first warrant request earlier this month. According to the report, the woman, who was nine months pregnant, likely died from strangulation and not from an accidental fall as alleged by the doctor.

February 18, 2011
High School Teacher Fined for Hitting Student

A Seoul court ordered a high school teacher to pay damages for hitting a student on the hands, giving her bruises and inflammations. The Seoul Northern District Court ordered the 52-year-old teacher to pay her former student 2.54 KRW (USD 2,280) in compensation and medical expenses.

Seoul to Open Boarding School for North Korean Defector Children

A boarding school for North Korean defector children will open in Seoul next week, aimed at offering Korean language lessons to those from low-income households. According to North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, the School will start its first semester with 27 elementary students. The school will be operated as a boarding school and tuition fees and boarding expenses will be offered free of charge. Some defector children have difficulty adapting to general local schools as many of them cannot speak Korean due to their long stay in other countries such as China before entering South Korea.

Court Orders Compensation for Victim of Police Torture

The Seoul Central District Court decided partially in favor of a plaintiff who filed a claim for damages against the government for mental abuse he endured while being tortured by police officers as an alleged criminal suspect at Yangcheon Police Station last year. The judge ordered the government to pay Kim 20 million KRW (USD 18,000).  The justice department said that “the police officers treated [the plaintiff] harshly during the police investigation, which caused [him] pain,” and that, “the country should be responsible to compensate for the damages caused by the unlawful actions of public officials.”

 

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

News Brief- February 8-11, 2011

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment
News Brief

February 8, 2011

South Korean Government Denies NGO’s Trip to North Korea

A Unification Ministry official confirmed that the South Korean government decided not to grant a trip requested by the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, a major relief group that had asked for permission to travel to North Korea. The NGO has over 50 members in South Korean of aid groups to the North.

V-Day Seoul to Support Women’s Charities

V-Day Seoul will hold events from February 19 until April 17 to support charities that help women who face violence and discrimination. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Korean Unwed Mothers & Families Association (KUMFA), more commonly known as Miss Mamma Mia, works to erase the stigma attached to unwed mothers in Korea. V-Day Seoul started in 2007 and has supported the Korea Women’s Hotline, Dasi Hamkee Center, and The Marriage Migrants Network of the Seoul Immigration Office.

February 9, 2011

South Korean Protests Becoming Increasingly Peaceful

Police data revealed illegal violent protests have significantly declined over the past couple of decades, especially since the 2008 inauguration of South Korean President Lee’s administration. According to the National Police Agency, an average of 12,200 demonstrations had taken place in each of the past three years. Of them, 56 cases (0.46%) were illegal violent protests ― a drastic decrease from the previous 27.9% of protests which were violent and illegal.

Children Remain Unprotected from Domestic Violence

A three year old boy was allegedly beaten to death by his father and abandoned at a nearby construction site in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul. The police discovered that the neighbors and even kindergarten teachers had long been aware of the domestic abuse though nobody had taken any action, underscoring the lack of child welfare protection. Civic groups have called to institute tougher rules and a better system against growing domestic violence. A stricter Child Welfare Law was enacted in 2004 to prevent child abuse, but the number of cases has not decreased.

NHRCK Further Disappoints Citizens

Civic groups have expressed concern over the actions of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), which has been criticized for failing to fulfill its founding duties since the arrival of Chairperson Hyun Byung-chul. Civic groups insist that Hyun and the other non-experts in human rights have abetted the regression of human rights since taking over the commission while turning a blind eye to pressing human rights issues and that they now are driving out human rights lower-level experts

February 10, 2011

Child Rape Victim Receives Compensation

A child rape victim and her mother were awarded 13 million won (US$11,700) in compensation by a court on Thursday that ruled prosecutors violated the interview policy of sexual assault victims by forcing the girl, who was 8 years old at the time, to testify in court despite her serious condition. The victim was brutally beaten and raped by a 57 year old man in a public restroom in Ansan, south of Seoul, while on her way to school in December 2008.

NHRCK Catalogs North Korean Human Rights Violations

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) announced during its standing committee meeting on Thursday that it will open the North Korean Human Rights Violations Reporting Center as well as the Hall of North Korean Human Rights Violation Records in order to handle complaints of human rights violations by North Korea and to keep records of such violations.

February 11, 2011

Officials Discuss Child Abduction Conventions

A senior U.S. diplomat met with South Korean officials to discuss Seoul’s planned accession to an international convention on the custody of children from international marriages. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction aims to prevent parents in custody battles from abducting their children and taking them to another nation in search of a more favorable arrangement. It also lays out a procedure for promptly returning children to their original country of residence.

 

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Free medical care… only exist in Utopia?

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Minhee Park

Encouraged by the electoral success of its compulsory school meal policy scheme in 2010, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) in Korea has revealed a plan to offer free medical services for the entire population. Together with the DP’s proposals for free child care, decrease in college tuition fees, and a compulsory school meal policy, the proposal for free medical services is stocking up a growing debate on welfare.

The Democratic Party’s health care plan demands for raising the coverage of medical bills by the National Health Insurance from the current 62% to 90% over the next five years. It would also lower the ceiling for out-of-pocket payments by patients from the current 4 million won to 1 million won(1,000-3,000 USD), while extending the National Health Insurance’s reach to cover some 2.4 million low-income people who are currently excluded.

The Democratic Party estimated that the new scheme for free medical service would increase the National Health Insurance’s annual expenditure by 8.1 trillion won. According to the new plan, this spending growth of National Health Insurance can be covered by collecting more premiums from employees at companies and by increasing the government’s fiscal support.

The Democratic Party’s proposals come at a time, when the demands for reform to the health care system are growing. Korea’s health insurance system has been touted as an efficient, low-cost program to provide health care to the public. However, the current Korea’s health insurance system has its limitations. For instance, the rate of patient’s co-payment is high, a range of non covered services is broad, and low income residents are excluded on the list of the beneficiaries of medical insurance. The Democratic Party’s proposal is intended to modify these weaknesses.

The Grand National Party (GNP), the ruling party, presented a counter-argument against the DP’s free medical care proposal. The governing Grand National Party has been criticizing the DP for raising the specter of populism. The GNP based their counter-argument on the problem of sustainability of the health insurance system related to the budget problem of the National Health Insurance Corp.

The National Health Insurance Corp. presented on 3rd January 2011 that the National Health Insurance Corp. ran a 1.3 trillion won budget deficit in 2010. This year’s budget deficit is expected to be cut to 500 billion won due to a 5.9 percent increase in contributions. However, budget shortfall is forecasted to mount up gradually due to the social phenomenon, like rapid population aging, expansion of coverage, introduction of expensive medical equipment and demand for better health services.

As an objection of the opinion of Grand National Party, Dong Young Jeong, who is the member of the supreme council in the DP, insisted that the introduction of taxation of the wealthy is inevitable to run the welfare policy. In addition, he added that “If the government levies taxes on the top 0.5% income bracket, over 10 trillion won would be secured as tax revenue. Furthermore, over 20 trillion won would be secured as governmental finances in the process of enforcement.” The Democratic Party suggested that the middle class of the society would be have the same opinion about the new plan for health care.

According to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights (

The presenters presented their subject in Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) forum naming “A ripple effect and task of free welfare policy series” which was held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on 9th February 2011. <Yonhap News Agency>

) article 12, the states parties to the present covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In addition, the article 2 of ICESR says that each state party to the present covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.

The citizens in Korea are wondering on how the two parties would compromise in free medical care debate and how the national assembly of Korea would adapt the international standard of right to health care to their system of health care.

Multicultural families to benefit from 2011 Foreign Policy Action Plan

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

Starting this year, marriage migrants who have not yet attained Korean citizenship can also benefit from basic livelihood security programs in South Korea.

The Ministry of Justice announced the “2011 Foreign Policy Action Plan” through a state panel on policies for foreign residents, presided over by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik on January 14.

Through rapid globalization there has been an increase in migration of people all over the world. The effects of this phenonmen could be felt in Korea as interracial marriage has also increased. In the meeting, the government made a decision to provide marriage migrants that do not have Korean citizenship the same legal protection and welfare benefits as Korean nationals. The government will support underprivileged migrants living on minimum wage raising children of Korean nationality with the cost of living, housing benefits, education, childbirth, funeral costs and medical welfare. It was also decided by the government to expand “social care” for vulnerable groups of foreigners such as those with disabilities.

In addition, in order for interracial couples to maintain a healthy marriage, the government will mandate Koreans who are seeking marriage to foreigners complete a pre-marriage education program intended to deepen understanding of their foreign spouses’ culture.

The panel also allocated the budget for the “social integration” program designed to aid underprivileged migrants and helps their settlement, especially those struggling with various hardships caused by cultural and linguistic differences.

In conjunction with the multicultural policy, a government official pointed out that there is a will, but lacks a clear control tower to proceed on its own. Accordingly, there is criticism on the effectiveness of the administration’s policy in comparison to the increased budget earmarked for the area.

The program also implements a fingerprint verification system which will fully go into effect July 1, in order to stem the flow of the illegal entrants using forged passports and to collect identity information for criminal investigations. However, civil groups regard this implementation as controversial. Most countries in the world have not introduced this system, except the United States and Japan. Foreigners could possibly feel uncomfortable to be regarded as a potential criminal. Moreover, there has yet to define a standard in the case taking fingerprints are refused.

“The number of foreigners staying in Korea exceeded 1. 25 million as of 2010, accounting for 2.5 percent of the entire population,” Prime Minister Kim said in a statement, “Given that the number will keep increasing, we should set up comprehensive and systematic policies to deal with the increase.”

This new foreign policy shows a step forward in the treatment of foreigners who stay in Korea, but still have a long way to go in fully being an accepting multicultural nation.

Categories: Migrants

News Brief – February 7, 2011

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment
News Brief                                                                                                                                     February 7, 2011
146 Teenage Suicides in 2010

2010 marks the eighth year that the number of suicides passed 100. Though the number has gone down from 2009’s record high, 202, authorities are concerned over the unacceptably large amount of suicides in a nation with one of the steepest negative growth rates in the world. The Ministry of Education plans give psychological assessments in order to counter suicides associated with depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Strengthening Regulations on International Marriage Brokers

In order to prevent unstable international marriages, the authorities will no longer grant F-2 visas residence visas to those whose marriages have been brokered by an unregistered marriage broker. About 1,800 marriage brokers were operating in Korea since last year and new measures are being taken to prevent potentially disastrous international marriages.

U.S. Envoy for North Korean Human Rights to Visit Seoul

The U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, is to arrive in Seoul Sunday for discussions on how to deal with the situation in North Korea. King is scheduled to meet South Korean government officials, North Korean defectors, and NGO’s to collect data on North Korea’s human rights abuses and discuss strategies to address the problem. King led the U.S. legislation of the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004 and this will be King’s second visit to South Korea since he took office in 2009.

Female Candidate Nominated for Constitutional Court

Lee Jung-mi, a senior judge at the Daejeon High Court, has been nominated to serve in the Constitutional Court, She will succeed Constitutional Court Justice Lee Kong-hyun, who retired from his six-year term, March 31. The nomination was made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon. If Lee Jung-mi passes the confirmation hearing, the incoming Justice will become the second female judge to sit on the nine-member panel, after Justice Jeon Hyo-sook whose term ended in 2006.

31 North Korean Arrive in South Korea

31 North Koreans crossed the Yellow Sea by boat, arriving on a South Korean frontline island. The 11 men and 20 women arrived on Yeonpyeong Island in a fishing boat and are considered to be possible defectors. The boat was then towed to the western port city of Incheon where those aboard are being questioned by South Korean authorities on how they crossed the tense Yellow Sea.

 

 

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

News Brief January 29-31,2011

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

News Brief                                                                                   January 29, 2011

Conscript Police Officer Commits Suicide 

A 21-year-old conscript police officer serving his mandatory military service in Incheon was found hanging from a tree in a public parking lot near his house. The victim was currently on leave and was required to report to his unit by 6 p.m. that day. He is believed to have committed suicide instead of facing further harassment and abuse by his senior officers. An anonymous police officer explained that junior officers are abused by their seniors and “once victims, they mostly become assaulters later—it’s a vicious cycle in which they are trapped.”

Police Officer Confesses to Murdering His Mother for Insurance Money 

Officer Lee claims that he accidentally murdered his mother in a blotched insurance fraud scheme. Lee’s mother took three sleeping pills sometime around 9 p.m. Lee then broke into his mother’s house later that night wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a bowling ball. Lee repeatedly dropped the bowling ball on his sleeping mother’s spine, tied his mother with tape, and vandalized the apartment to fake a robbery. Lee claimed that he only meant to injure his mother’s back so that she could collect spinal injury insurance money to pay off her 2 million KRW debt.

January 30, 2011

Child Victims of Sex Crimes to Receive Free Legal Support 

The Ministry of Justice is to submit a bill to the National Assembly to provide victims of sexual crimes under 13 years old with free legal support, including a government-appointed lawyer, available from the initial investigation. This bill is in line with new regulations on strengthening the protective system for child victims of sex crimes. All expenses will be met by the Protection Fund for Criminal Victims and the government plans to eventually expand the coverage to all victims under 19 years old.

100,000th Naturalized Citizen Hopes for a More Open Korea  

Indian-born Alok Kumar Roy, the 100,000th naturalized Korean citizen and Korean resident for nearly three decades, stated that he became a Korean citizen in order to solve everyday inconveniences. Roy stated that, “I had to extend my contract with the school year after year without tenure, which made my job status unstable. With the alien registration, I couldn’t buy a cell phone on my own. I couldn’t do many things without a guarantor.”

January 31, 2011

Free Lunches Go Green 

The Superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and leaders of Seoul Metropolitan Council visited the Eco-friendly Distribution Center in Seoul and examined vegetables and meat for free school lunches. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) plans to serve free lunches to about 320 thousand elementary school students, grades 1-3 in March, despite the Seoul Metropolitan government’s strong objections.

NHRCK to Investigate Abuse in the Barracks 

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) plans to conduct its own investigation into three reported cases of abuse in riot police squads that have led to criminal punishment. The NHRC said it will probe regional police agencies in South Chuncheong and Gangwon provinces, and the western port city of Incheon, to look into allegations of physical and emotional abuses by senior officers.

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief